This past Tuesday, sports talk shows began analyzing comments made by Florida Gators wide receiver Deonte Thompson. While giving an interview to an Orlando Sentinel blog reporter, Thompson excitedly discussed the team’s new quarterback, John Brantley. Brantley, who is expected to take over for Tim Tebow, was described by Thompson as the kind of “real” quarterback that allowed players like him to get into a better rhythm than they could have with Tebow.
"You never know with Tim. You can bolt, you think he's running but he'll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything's with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback," Thompson explained.
Wednesday, online video surfaced of Florida coach Urban Meyer furious about the comments. The video showed him angrily confronting someone over the comments made by his player, but the target wasn’t his receiver, it was the blogger who wrote about it.
"Do it one more time and the Orlando Sentinel's not welcome here ever again. Is that clear? It's yes or no," the football coach told the writer.
While Meyer defending his young wide receiver is an admirable gesture, it was a bit unnecessary. After all, there were no twisted words in the quotes taken from Thompson, no fabrications regarding what he said. Perhaps Meyer’s anger was misplaced. Rather than going after a reporter doing his job, the Florida coach would have been better served going after the person who was offered the quote: John Brantley.
This situation speaks to a larger issue regarding just how exposed universities should allow their student athletes to be when it comes to the media. There isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t hear about some college football player, or college basketball player, saying something that sports talk radio hosts can dissect and analyze for hours upon hours. Many times the comments come and go without raising a storm of attention from various media outlets; however, often enough, the comments are noticed. Then, once the comments are brought to the public’s attention, it is usually the reporters who get the stories or ask the tough questions who are painted as villains.
There appear to be two solutions to the problem: 1.) do not allow student athletes to speak to the media, or 2.) accept what they say as you would with any professional athletes.There are no other options besides those two.
If a student is allowed to speak to the media, then both the student and their university should be responsible for what is said. It is not the sports media’s job to pick-and-choose the appropriate bits of what an athlete says and only use those in their reports. Reporters are not babysistters. Reporters are paid professionals who need to bring in relevant information that the general public cares about. They do not deserve to be victims of verbal assaults by angry coaches or athletic directors, no matter how badly a quote they took makes a particular player look. If all of the information presented is fair and balanced, then the reporter has done what is asked of them.
That being said, what do you think? Should student athletes be permitted to give interviews? If so, do you feel as though reporters should be held responsible for things a student athlete says?